***As 8 Persons Die, 25 Injure In Abuja-Kaduna Train Bomb Blast
ABUJA – The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi on Tuesday lamented the delayed approval for the procurement of technology worth N3 billion that can detect human activities or foreign activities on all the railway tracks across the country.
Amaechi, spoke during the on the ground assessment of the attack on train Monday night, stating that about 8 persons feared dead on the Abuja-Kaduna train bomb blast on Monday night, adding they are yet to account for the number of people that were kidnapped on the train.
He disclosed that 398 passengers were on the train and the Nigerian Railway Cooperation is still trying to make contact with the passengers on the manifest even though there are staffs of the NRC and security officials that are not on the manifest.
Amaechi said if they had gotten the approval, they would have saved the N3billion and saved lives of Nigerians plying the trains.
According to him, they can secure the locomotives and secure lives. “ I had warned earlier that it is important they get us this approval because human lives would be involved. Since that warning till today, we have had two similar incidents”.
“The cameras in the train cannot pick what is happening outside. What we need is a camera that shows 100 metres away from the train.
“Then, we can take precaution but we have done all we need to do in the Ministry of Transportation and we have forwarded to them for approval but we have not gotten approval.
“If those items were here, drones alone will tell you that there are people around the rail tracks because there are drones, there are equipment that pick sensors if you touch the track but unfortunately the process has not been able to get us that approval for us to import those items.
On the figures persons missing during the incident, the minister said they don’t have all the figures of missing persons, kidnapped and those injured .
He said the numbers they have is that there are eight casualties. “There are 25 persons in the hospital and the total number of passengers are 398.
“So, we have to wait on the security and the Kaduna state government and the Nigerian Railway Cooperation (NRC) are all trying to make contact with those on the manifest.”
“There are few persons who are not on the manifest like the staff of the NRC, staff of the cleaning contractor, they are not on the manifest and we may not be able to completely account for them but those on the manifest, calls are being made to reach them.”
He said the patrol vehicles are available but they cannot reach everywhere adding that they are thinking about the possibility of employing natives until we get those equipment. “ Beyond the drones, we need helicopters.
“The solution is not in running away from the militants or the bandits. The solution is providing the technology that lets you know that they are around.
“Even if they get us approval, it will take some months to acquire them from overseas to install them. We need to do that to enable us see from Kaduna-Abuja, Itakpe-Warri and from Lagos-Ibadan railways, so that we don’t continue to lose lives because lives are important,” he said .
About six months ago when terrorists attacked Abuja-Kaduna train deploying explosives on the track and forced the train to stop at Rijana community, Kaduna state, the federal government gave assurances that such incident would not occur again as it was putting in place security devices to ensure the train transport system is safe for passengers
It is however unfortunate that 6-month after, the security apparatus promised by the government is still in procurement process as the Independent learnt that the security equipment approved by the Federal Executive Council was to arrive in July.
Meanwhile in reaction to the unfortunate incident Roland Ataguba of Bethlehem Rail Infrastructure Ltd, London advised that government can put in place technology driven systems like intrusion alarms, broken rail detectors, motion activated cameras and so on that can help but to my mind, nothing surpasses human intelligence.
He added that it is not not strictly a problem for the railway but an environmental one as some criminals have declared war on our country and we are creeping into anarchy.
Ataguba said “I don’t know what government knows or is doing but it’s been 6 months since the last attack along that corridor and it should have been treated as an emergency. Lives are being lost. Nigeria is bleeding but government must hasten and restructure the railway environment. Some of this may have been prevented.
He advised that a private operator would have been far more responsive knowing the consequences such disruption could have on his business.
The CEO African Railway Consulting Limited Olawale Rasheed noted that Kaduna state has been volatile for quite some time saying in as much its not easy to put in place patrol men to police the track tracking devices can be put in place.
He said am aware FEC has approved the purchase of the tracking device across the line and when I checked I learnt the ministry is expecting delivery and security installation around July and the installation completed around August-September, it is a security threat and the authority are already doing the needful”
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